Christian Aid welcomes decision to reveal who really owns UK companies

By agency reporter
November 2, 2013

The UK Government’s decision to create a new, public register of who owns some 2.5 million companies is a welcome breakthrough in the global fight against tax evasion, corruption and other financial crime, says the British-based churches' global development agency, Christian Aid.

The decision was announced by the UK Government at the London meeting of the Open Government Partnership on Thursday 31 October 2013.

The coalition has faced trenchant criticism on many open data and secrecy issues, but has moved on this one after considerable public and NGO pressure.

Commenting on the move, Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and chair of Christian Aid, said: "This was a brave decision by the Prime Minister and his Business Secretary, who no doubt had to face down many vested interests determined to maintain the status quo.

"The challenge now will be to ensure that this policy is delivered effectively and that the poorest people in our world are among those who feel the benefits.

"The announcement of a public register of who really owns UK companies shows that the Government has genuinely listened to the arguments about the powerful benefits of transparency.

"For the past year, campaigners have urged the UK Government to tackle the secretive companies which exist only on paper and which are used for various corrupt purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering, often in the poorest countries in the world.

"Financial secrecy is a form of privacy that works against human dignity. Getting this information about who owns what out into the open could strike a powerful blow against corrupt and destructive business practices: it is one more signpost on the path to an economics of the common good."

Christian Aid says it believes that in addition to the public register’s direct benefits in the fight against tax evasion and other financial crime, it will also set a brilliant example to other countries around the world. They have been watching to see what the UK would do and are now more likely to create public registers of their own.

Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Christian Aid, commented: "The UK Government should now build on its excellent decision to create a public register by leading efforts to do the same thing at European Union level.

"In addition, it should ensure that the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories set up equivalent public registers covering companies registered with them."

[Ekk/3]

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